Questions in the Deadly University City Crash Involving an SDPD Officer

In the three days since Walter Freeman was killed by a SDPD cruiser in University City, questions from the bicycling community have continued to roll in. The primary concern is that the officer in question may have been driving distracted. Freeman exited a driveway and crossed a bike lane and two other lanes of traffic, wearing a reflective vest and red helmet before being struck from behind by the cruiser, which according to the SDPD was traveling under the posted 45 m.p.h. speed limit.

Residents of the area said Freeman was an avid bicyclist who rode the area regularly, but witness statements claimed that Freeman moved left suddenly into the path of the cruiser, emphasizing a common misperception that bicyclists are erratic and unpredictable. But if Freeman was the experienced and safety-conscious bicyclist he seems to have been, it seems unlikely that his move reflected anything other than an assumption that a police car, of all things, would obey traffic laws and allow him to merge left.

As anyone who has been in a fender-bender knows, police typically assign fault in rear-end collisions to the driver in back for failing to yield or traveling at unsafe speeds. In this case, the officer claimed to not see Freeman until it was too late, but it seems that Freeman had done everything within his power to be seen. The SDPD was quick to label this fatality an “unfortuante accident” but the investigation is ongoing and we hope the department will provide more information about what exactly the officer was doing inside his car when Walter Freeman entered the roadway.